State Watch

West Virginia’s top health official ousted

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R) on Wednesday ousted Cathy Slemp, the commissioner of the state public health bureau, shortly after suggesting the state’s active virus numbers were overstated.

“If we were on our game here, in DHHR [Department of Health and Human Resources] and Dr. Slemp’s office, if we’re on our game and you’re listening to the governor say that there’s six active cases at Huttonsville and you’re looking at the reports that you’re putting together and sending them to me on active cases and you’re looking at Randolph County and they’re reporting a hundred-and-some-odd cases then you’re not doing your job,” Justice told reporters earlier Wednesday, according to NBC News.

“I depend on people, and I really depend on their accuracy,” he added. “I’m really hung up on the right numbers. If I tell you it’s a seven today, I want you to be able to come back and come back day after tomorrow and come back in three weeks and it be a seven.

Justice’s office said Bill Crouch, secretary of the state’s health department, had asked for and received Slemp’s resignation after Justice expressed his “lack of confidence” in her. A spokeswoman for the state health department expanded on Justice’s criticisms, saying there were discrepancies in virus caseload data at Randolph County’s Huttonsville Correctional Center.

Slemp previously served as acting state health officer and was the founding director of West Virginia’s public health emergency preparedness and response programs. She also serves on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s board of scientific counselors.

Her ouster comes as West Virginia has reported at least 72 cases linked to travel to Myrtle Beach in South Carolina as well as 70 cases connected to church services in three counties, even as Justice has declined to take steps such as making face masks mandatory in public, according to NBC.

Tags Coronavirus Jim Justice

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